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Wednesday, January 30, 2013
Waste Management Phoenix Open picks


Each week of the season, our experts will share their insights into which players fit the criteria for our four categories: Horse for the Course (a golfer who knows the track inside and out), Birdie Buster (a guy who could take it low this week), Super Sleeper (a player who could unexpectedly contend) and Winner.

This week's tournament: The Waste Management Phoenix Open at TPC Scottsdale in Scottsdale, Ariz.

Want another opinion? Check out ESPN.com's FOREcaster page.

Horse for the Course


Michael Collins, ESPN.com senior golf analyst: Aaron Baddeley

He hasn't missed a cut here since 2008 and that was the year after he won this event. He's about due for another strong finish in the desert he now calls home. It doesn't hurt that the past two years he has hit 60 percent and 76 percent of his greens in regulation here.

Farrell Evans, ESPN.com senior golf writer: J.B. Holmes

In only seven starts in Phoenix, the 30-year-old former Kentucky star has two wins and a tie for fifth.

Bob Harig, ESPN.com senior golf writer: Mark Wilson

The champion at TPC Scottsdale two years ago, Wilson seems to be an early-year player and has a win and three top-20s in the past five years.

Kevin Maguire, ESPN.com senior golf editor: Bubba Watson

Hopefully the reigning Masters champion's case of the flu is completely gone when he tees it up at TPC Scottsdale. In 22 career rounds there, he has broken par 20 times and added a pair of even-par 71s.


Birdie Buster


Michael Collins: Ben Crane

Last year he missed the cut the week before this event and missed a playoff by 1 shot. In 2008 he finished 67th the week before and finished fourth. He missed the cut last week … so a top-10 is guaranteed!

Farrell Evans: Rickie Fowler

In San Diego, the 24-year-old former Oklahoma State star shot 77 in the first round. Then he went 13 under over his next three rounds to finish at 8 under in a tie for sixth. No one in the field played better than Fowler over the last 54 holes.

Bob Harig: Rickie Fowler

You have to give the guy some credit for bouncing back from an opening-round 77 at Torrey Pines to not only make the cut, but threaten the top five.

Kevin Maguire: Charles Howell III

In three starts, the Augusta, Ga., native has earned nearly $1 million so far this season with three top-10 finishes. Expect that West Coast swing mojo to keep going in the Arizona desert.


Super Sleeper


Michael Collins: Jason Kokrak

Most guys in their sophomore season still make scheduling mistakes, but not this bomber. He's averaging 307.8 yards off the tee but hitting only 50 percent of his fairways. Smart move taking the week of Farmers off and playing a rough-light course this week in Scottsdale.

Farrell Evans: Brad Fritsch

With a tie for ninth in San Diego, the 36-year-old rookie had his first career top-10 on the PGA Tour. The Canadian has made the cut in his first three tour starts.

Bob Harig: Bubba Watson

Beware the ill golfer. He wasn't feeling well at the season-opening Hyundai Tournament of Champions, then withdrew last week at Torrey Pines with the flu. He's had nice record at the Phoenix Open.

Kevin Maguire: Mike Weir

Coming off his first made cut last week since 2011, the 2003 Masters champ showed glimmers of hope with an opening-round 66 at Torrey Pines. Granted, he didn't break par the rest of the week, but there's always a chance at two in a row.


Winner


Michael Collins: Bo Van Pelt

Let the breakout year begin this week! Nothing spectacular to start the season … until now. He was 18th in 2011 and eighth last year at this event. Van Pelt has found his first win of 2013. Can you hear the theme song from "The Jeffersons"? "We're a movin' on up!"

Farrell Evans: Brandt Snedeker

In 2013, 10 of Snedeker's 11 rounds have been under par. In Tiger's runaway win in San Diego, the 2012 FedEx Cup champion had a tie for second.

Bob Harig: Jason Dufner

He has been all over the globe early in the season, having played well at Abu Dhabi and Qatar after Hawaii. He makes the trek directly from the Middle East to Phoenix, where he has top-10s each of the past two years.

Kevin Maguire: Brandt Snedeker

In three starts so far in 2013, the reigning FedEx Cup champion has two top-3 finishes including a T-2 last week at Torrey Pines. If his putter comes around after last week -- and that's not asking much of Snedeker -- a victory in Phoenix isn't out of the question.